Postoperative swallowing pain is one of the most unpleasant after-effects of tonsillectomy. During recent years, the demand for alternatives to drug-based pain therapy has continued to grow, although the topic has received little research attention until now.
Materials and methods
A total of 46 patients were randomized into verum acupuncture, control acupuncture, and drug-based treatment groups. All patients received nonsteroidal antirheumatic drugs (NSAIDs). One hour after drug intake, the verum group also received acupuncture according to classical acupuncture rules (S34, S44 and PC5). The control group had acupuncture needles placed at nonspecific acupuncture points in the midaxillary line. Acupuncture was performed by a blinded acupuncturist, who had learnt exclusively these techniques in the run up to the study. Patients were asked to evaluate their pain before, and at intervals of 20 min, 1 h, 2 h, and 3 h after drug intake/acupuncture treatment using a visual analog scale (VAS).
The analgesic effect of acupuncture was significant up to 3 hours in the verum group (p < 0.05). The analgesic effect in the control acupuncture group was significant for up to 1 h after acupuncture (p < 0.05). With reference to the time point before acupuncture, the differences between both acupuncture groups and the drug group were significant (p < 0.01) over the whole time.
Acupuncture is an effective complement to NSAIDs in the treatment of posttonsillectomy pain. Particularly patients with allergies, drug intolerance, or reduced response to the commonly administered drugs may benefit from acupuncture.